The fifth Scream movie has arrived in theaters, bringing old and new characters together for a fun new story that retains the franchise’s heart.
While horror movies have never really been my thing, and my general weenie-ness has been long established. That said, I’ve always harbored a soft-spot for the slasher franchise Scream. Seriously, even as a kid watching the original one (thanks childhood peer pressure), I found myself hooked.
Directed By: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Written By: James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick
Starring: Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell
Release Date: January 14, 2022
I could never seem to transfer that into other horror properties, but I’ve happily gobbled up all the sequels and was very much looking forward to see this new one. While Scream doesn’t quite reach the highs of the original film, nor fit the “legacy sequel” bill as well as Scream 4 (one of my favorites), it manages to tell a fun new story that’s certainly worth watching.
I won’t go into full story details here so if you’re concerned about spoilers, have no fear. That said, I can’t talk much about the story in general as there are a plenty of twists, red herrings, and such to keep audiences guessing for as long as possible.
The basics are relatively simple. In the town of Woodsboro, a new Ghostface killer has emerged who seems to be targeting younger people who hold some sort of connection to the people from the original incidents (from the previous films). After her sister is attacked, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) returns to the home she fled when she was younger, she becomes embroiled in the latest deranged plot from killers following a new set of “movie rules.”
As the bodies begin to pile up, survivors from the previous attacks (Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers, and Dewey Riley) find themselves pulled back to help the newcomers and put the latest threat down. As is always the case, secrets from the past rear their head and turns everyone into a suspect.
If you’re familiar with the Scream franchise, it follows a pretty familiar format; strandling the line between whodunnit and full on slasher. It also falls pretty well within the typical “legacy sequel” tropes. The result is a movie that is a little more predictable than it initially wants you to think, but somehow absolutely in-line with everything we know and love about the franchise.
To say Scream is “meta” feels too obvious of a statement. Afterall, the original film itself is a meta-movie poking fun at horror movie tropes in general. The whole franchise is built off the idea of playing on cliches and following the rules of a movie…within a movie. This new Scream is no different, with the killer even designing the “rules” this time around the “legacy sequel” tropes that are more recent. Hell, even the name of the new film, utilizing the original title rather than a numbered sequel, is a play on the horror reboot genre (and hilariously touched on within the movie).
So in this way, the new Scream does exactly what you would expect it to do. Much like the previous films, however, it manages to take all those elements and turn it into something ridiculously enjoyable, even as it pokes fun at itself. Sure, some of those meta sections can feel a bit heavy-handed in how they come across, but this too feels in keeping with the overall themes. Throw in some brutal kills, tons of genuine tension, and you’ve got a movie that captures the Scream vibe in all the right ways.
It’s not a perfect movie, obviously, In fact, I still think Scream 4 handles the “legacy sequel” aspect better than this one. There are some interesting character moments that just felt…weird. Again, I don’t want to get into it too much to avoid story spoilers, but there are times where major characters have these big moments of information dumps, where a whole bunch of important plot points are given out in one go.
Ostensibly, these are supposed to be big emotional moments between the characters as well, but the timing of them felt to strange to be genuine. I mean, the front lawn of an active crime scene with dead bodies lying about, doesn’t exactly feel like the best time for heartfelt reconciliations/long explanations about what’s been going on for the last few years…but whatever.
These moments certainly could have been handled better, and cleaned up the overall pacing of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, it moves at a breakneck, thrilling pace for the most part, which makes those scenes feel like abrupt stopping points. Even with that in mind, Scream manages to do something the previous sequels hadn’t: made me care about the new characters.
For the most part, the Scream movies have effectively kept the focus on Neve Campbell’s iconic Sidney Prescott. Every killer had some connection to her and her family. While this was a fun way (sometimes) to keep fans invested in the sequels, the problem is the series couldn’t ever move on. The result were a host of various new characters introduced over the years who just didn’t resonate in quite the same way.
While I greatly enjoyed Scream 4, it suffered from this problem as well. I liked the newer characters just fine, but it still felt too rooted Sidney’s story and I couldn’t see a sequel following up without her. Scream, however, manages to break away from this problem.
While Sidney still plays an important role, the driving purpose behind the killers motives isn’t intrinsically tied to her. Instead it goes for a new idea, one that plays into Sidney’s history with Woodsboro, but isn’t beholden to it either. Ultimately, the legacy characters finally felt like they weren’t the main characters, but rather ancillary to the new crew.
By the time the credits were rolling, I felt a deeper connection to the new characters and genuinely wanted to see what would happen to them next. I could see them doing a Scream sequel that completely eschewed the original cast (except for maybe a cameo), and have it not feel weird anymore.